When hurt gets in the way we tend to lean towards meanness, deniability, and even spite, but I have found after three Divorces that taking that route is waste of time and the negativity that comes with it can damage oneself not only mentally, but physically as well.
The keys to a successful relationship comes from focusing on the positive during the demise of the previous one. I find that letting the past be the past, and looking towards what lies ahead is what will allow me to be healthy. One of my favorite works that I have seen come through the social media feeds is “An Open Letter to My Ex-Wife: I Thought You Were the Most Beautiful Thing in the World” which stemmed from the original post by the Author Anthony Joseph D’Ambrisio entitled “Thoughts“. There is just something that every person goes through when losing a loved one, and divorce is definitely a process of losing a loved one. Anthony’s words greatly display what we all go through when Divorcing, so much so that it sparked me to look into my own self during my own process.
Now that I am heading into a relationship after divorcing for the third time, I have devised a list of rules and idioms for myself to follow that could lead to a more healthy outcome. Some are based on what I have found in myself, and some from what I have learned from my past marriages. Both have added up to rules I live by as I continue to grow in my life.
Before even considering getting into a relationship understand where your limits are and stick to them. If you know that you are a person that needs companionship and that constant attention, then recognize you need someone in your life that will be there when you need them. If you have been hurt in the past and have trouble with trusting your partner, then know that you should be with someone you can trust.
It’s about owning your own boundaries and knowing what your issues might me coming into the relationship. This will help you to build a solid foundation that you and your new partner can work from.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
Understanding your limits are only effective when you are willing to enforce them. We’ve all seen the romantic movie where man and woman fall in love, then one of them makes a mistake breaking the other’s trust somehow. The two break up for a while until the one that made the mistake convinces the other to forgive them and they live happily ever after. If only a team of writers could come up with an entertaining plot filled with cute scenes and romantic moments all ending with the bog kiss at sunset with hopes and dreams of forever happiness. But that’s not real life. Breaking of trust or damaging others around ones self are both issues that are virtually impossible to get over even with the help of a licensed professional. Whether you need to be able to care for yourself financially, or be emotionally prepared to be on your own, stopping damage before it can get really bad will help you to be healthier in the long term. No matter how invested you are in the relationship, it’s good to be prepared to walk away from it before going down a path that will cause more hurt in the end.
My past Step-Father had said to my Husband during his divorce before marrying me “I’m proud of you for having the strength to do what I could not.” Walking away from anything seems like the hardest thing anyone can go through, but in reality a lifetime of being hurt is more damaging and harder that taking the immediate “easy route”.
Think Things Through
New love is exciting. Jumping into relationships are fun and being loved is the best feeling anyone can experience, but we can often get lost in the fantasy of it all and not see the reality clearly. While you are high on the drug of love, step back as often as you can and look at where you are from a different perspective. If stepping back is difficult to do, try asking your friends for their honest opinion of the person. If you find yourself say “Yeah, but…” followed with a tidbit of your partner’s past or perhaps a short explanation as to why the person may be seeing what they are seeing, then stop yourself and think about why you are bringing that explanation up. Allowing yourself to excuse behavior or jump into a relationship quickly could potentially end up in pain and despair. If you decide to continue, I defer to #2 on this list: Be prepared to walk away.
We Aren’t Always Happy
If only we could be The Stepford Wives, happy spouses who never let anything get to us. That’s just not how the world is. From the drive through traffic, a bad day at work, or something someone said that triggered a horrible memory, our emotions can get the better of us. The key to dealing with the unhappiness is to recognize it and deal with the cause effectively, don’t stuff it away. One of my many therapists in my past once said “Anger is just a symptom of another emotion”. Anger, more often than not, is concealing something that lies much deeper.
…what I’ve learned to ask myself is not simply, “What anger control skills does this person need to learn?” but rather, “What is this person’s anger enabling, protecting against, or symptomatic of?” For if there is such a thing as a tip-of-the-iceberg emotion, surely it is anger—the feeling that can conceal so very much below it—that best fits the bill.
When you are feeling angry, look at yourself and try to understand what it is exactly that is causing it, and by no means should you try to lock it away or get over it. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling and do your best to work through the emotion. If your partner is escalating the anger, then ask them for space while you calm yourself down or explain to them what it is you are feeling and what might have triggered it. You are responsible for your own happiness.
Don’t let the little stuff get to you
Remember that the person you are with is the person you fell in love with. Dirty socks on the floor, or chewing gum with their mouth open, are all such little annoyances that really are just little. I read an article many years ago (before the internet) where the female author talked about a rug that had fringe on it she had in her hallway. The fringe was often messed up by the kids, the dog, her Husband, and even people that came over to visit. She was constantly fixing the fringe only to find it getting messed up soon after. She found herself blowing up at the kids and her Husband for messing up the fringe. She suddenly realized that it wasn’t her family or anyone else that was causing her to get frustrated, or angry – it was her problem, and her problem only. She was the only one that wanted the fringe to lay the way she wanted it to lay, and it wasn’t as important to others.
That article can resonate with even the best of us. So the next time you get upset that the dishes are piling up in the sink, just do them, it’s not that big of a deal. If you find yourself repeatedly doing dishes and not getting help, then talk to the people (Partner or Roommate) that are supposed to be helping. If they don’t sympathize and help out, well then perhaps it’s time to defer to #1 and #2.
Think Before Making Decisions
Now that you are in a relationship, there are more people to consider than yourself when making decisions. When we are on our own, we have the freedom to make decisions, be spontaneous, and take risks without affecting the others around us. All of the changes when we connect ourselves to another person.
“Because our relationships form such a critical fabric of our lives, it’s not only impossible to make a big decision without thinking of others, but it can be downright unhealthy,” said Holly Parker, a lecturer of psychology at Harvard University. “What ultimately matters is how much we allow others to impact our decision and why.”
This, of course, does not mean you should check with your new partner every time you need to make a decision, all the way down to “Should I be buying that new dress?”, but it does mean you should consider them in all major life choices. Just as #3 says to think things through, it’s also good to take a moment and consider all the options, talk with your new partner, and really think things through before you make that final decision.
Don’t Make Mistakes
Now I know can’t all be perfect, but we can do our best not to screw up. I say “Don’t make mistakes” because, just as in #6, you want to always consider that you’re life now involves another person. Just as you should consider their input when making decisions, making mistakes can deeply affect them and your relationship. It can be something as extreme as putting yourself into a situation where you might be tempted to be unfaithful, or perhaps something as simple as spending a few dollars when you don’t have money to spend, these common mistakes can really damage a relationship. Your partner may be very forgiving, but this all can pile up and show them that you can’t be trusted.
Do your best to make the right decisions, don’t put yourself in situations that can put you at risk of making a mistake. If you have a weakness, an addiction, or a known issue that can cause you to make mistakes then do your best to ensure you don’t go down that road. Outside help, therapy, or even rehab are all ways in which you can get the help to not make any big mistakes that could potentially damage your relationship.
After an Argument Don’t Dwell On What Your Partner Did
We all argue, it happens. Healthy arguing is one of the many keys to a successful relationship. A good rule to live by is to avoid dwelling on the argument, or what your partner might have done to cause it, why they started it, or what they said and did during the argument. Dwelling on these things can only add more negative energy to what you are already experiencing, and that is just counterproductive. Instead, try learning from the argument. Reflect on your part in the situation, what you did, said, and why your partner might be upset. If you feel you need to discuss it, if your partner can be receptive of discussing it productively without getting emotional again, then try talking with them again. I have a bit of a rule that lies within this rule: “When the argument is about the argument, then the relationship is over.” recycling and circling back through what was said, or what was done during the argument is a never ending cycle. If you find you and your partner heading in that direction quickly stop if you can, and leave it for another time. If possible, get outside help either for yourself or you and your partner to effectively work through everything. I’ll also defer to #4 and #5 – by allowing ourselves to dwell on the little things, or allow our anger to take over then we end up in unhealthy relationships. Instead, look into yourself and learn from all that you can so that you can move onto becoming a more healthy individual.
Remember We Say Things We Don’t Mean When Upset
Just as you would hope that your partner understand you didn’t mean to call them a B word or A word, your partner could benefit form you giving the the same consideration. Of course we don’t want things to get out of hand, so if you find your partner attacking your character or using your insecurities to hurt you, or perhaps something even worse, then I would defer to #1 and possibly #2. Though if you can find yourself forgiving your partner it is a powerful choice you can make when it’s right for you that can lead to greater well-being and better relationships.
Don’t Say Anything You Might Regret
Just as you should forgive your partner for anything said that could have hurt you without the sole intention to harm, using words to harm your partner can be damaging. At times, an argument can escalate to that place where you and your partner are saying things that cause harm, intentional or not. Try to keep a level head about you and don’t go there, even if your partner is. I highly recommend reading my post talking about the argument serving a purpose. If your partner isn’t following the respect to arguing productively, and you are, then you can always get help. If not, then again, I’ll defer to #1 and #2.
The point of my list has given me the ability to attempt to be in a healthy relationship, the strength to leave if the relationship isn’t healthy, and to allow myself to be the best partner I can be in the future. We all aren’t perfect, of course, but trying is all we can expect of ourselves. Of course we’re going to slip up, and so are our partners, but if you both can come back around and work together then I truly believe there is hope for a lasting relationship. Yes, even after Divorcing for the third time I do have hope that there is a chance at a stable and healthy relationship.